Football is a game of the comeback. The history of the NFL is filled with stories in which teams, despite incredible odds, come back from behind to do what seemed impossible. The Bears, with their focus on defensive play, have more than their fair share of these stories written about them. A couple of weeks ago, I looked back at one of the most amazing comeback games in recent history - the "They were who they thought they were" game from 2006 - but today, I want to look a little bit further back into Bears history for an even bigger comeback victory. In 2001, Dick Jauron's Bears got off to an improbable 6-1 start after going 5-11 the season previous. The turnaround was based on the strength of rookie Anthony Thomas' running, and the amazing play of second-year defenders Brian Urlacher, and Mike Brown. Brown had already shown the NFL just how good his was the week previous, cementing a Bears comeback against the 49ers in overtime: on the first play from scrimmage, he picked off a pass and returned in for a touchdown and the record for the shortest overtime win in NFL history. Follow me below the fold to relive the amazing come-from-behind win as the Bears faced the Cleveland Browns at home.
The first fifty seven minutes of this game weren't much to write about, unless you happen to be a big fan of Browns QB Tim Couch. The Bears spotted the Browns seven points in the first minute of the game, when Browns defensive end Courtney Brown picked up a Shane Matthews fumble and returned it for the touchdown. Matthews didn't improve from there, giving up a total of five turnovers in the game. The fans were leaving the stadium as the final minutes wound down and the Browns organized a long but scoreless drive, finally punting the ball into the end zone with 1:52 left. But, as the saying goes, on any given Sunday, anything is possible.
Despite looking every bit the inexperienced backup filling in for the injured Jim Miller, Matthews had one more chance to save face. While Anthony Thomas had a good game, running for 96 and earning another 71 through the air, offensive coordinator John Shoop (insert eye rolls here) gave the experienced James Allen the call for the two-minute drill. He got the drive going with a one yard catch-and-run, but it was all downfield from there. First, Matthews hit Marty Booker on the sideline for a fifteen yard gain - a play that was ruled incomplete at first but given to the Bears after a booth review - then tossed another sweet pass to Dez White good for another twelve. With the ball just on the Bears side of the field, the Browns moved into a more conservative deep zone coverage. Matthews took advantage by making a a five yard toss that James Allen turned into a twenty yard gain. Another quick pass to Dez White, and the Bears were in the red zone.
With the ball moving so quickly downfield and having only one timeout left, Matthews ran up to the 14 and spiked the ball. Strangely enough, this was the best play of the drive, as the Bears managed to catch twelve Browns on the field and also prevented the booth from overturning White's last "catch." Matthews, now looking into the end zone from the 9, had his first shot bounce off TE Fred Baxter's chest, but on the next play, Marty Booker's hands worked just fine. He reeled in an easy catch with the fallen coverage man looking up at him from the turf. The Bears had life again, down by only seven, but the drive had used up all but 28 seconds of the game. For this rally to become a full-fledged comeback, it would have to happen quickly.
Enter Paul Edinger and Jerry Azumah. Edinger lined up his onside kick, and actually did a pretty bad job of it. The ball rolled low on the turf fifteen yards upfield, and then suddenly took a big hop just as a Browns player was reaching up to grab it. Azumah, running downfield after the football, tapped the ball as it was about to fly out of bounds, and it was a pile of blue and white jerseys from there. After the minute it took for the refs to sort it out, somehow rookie LB Bobby Howard had come up with the ball on the Browns 48. With only 22 seconds left, Matthews would have his chance. The Browns once again showed a deep zone, and Matthews was more than happy to dump it short. James Allen took two quick passes a total of sixteen yards, putting the game clock at :08 and the Bears timeouts to zero.
They don't call a last-second shot into the end zone a Hail Mary for nothing, but with the way the last 1:44 had been going, it seemed like the Bears had more than just a prayer. With the gun ready to sound, Shane Matthews took the snap and waited in the pocket for his men to get downfield. Finally, with the clock now at zero, he threw it up to the right side of the end zone. A gaggle of blue and white jerseys leapt up for the ball, but rookie David Terrell was there to tap the ball to a trailing James Allen. He made a perfect grab for the ball, securing it as he rolled onto the Soldier Field grass. Somehow, the Bears had done it! The remaining fans went wild as Edinger came in to put one more on the board to make it a tie game. For the second time in as many weeks, it was going to take overtime for the Bears to finish what they started.
As someone should have explained to the Browns, tails never fails, and Mike Brown made a ball-cradling motion to the ref as he said the Bears would receive. Unfortunately, the offense was back to the way they played for the first fifty eight minutes of the game, going three and out after Dez White couldn't quite stretch the ball over the first down line on third and seven. Brad Maynard, however, was in rare form, booting the ball from the 41 all the way down to the nine, with the Bears coverage team holding the Browns return for only three yards after that. Tim Couch, who had been getting his offense out of tight spots all game, responded quickly with a 21 yard pass on play action, but the Bears defense would not be denied. On the next first down, Roosevelt Colvin came in untouched for a quick sack of Couch, putting the Browns in second and 15. Then, with the pressure coming again, Couch looked to make a dump-off pass to his right, but the hand of Brian Robinson was there waiting for the ball. The ball careened across the whole formation, when seemingly out of nowhere, Mike Brown came in from his short coverage position to snatch the ball out of the air. With nothing in front of him except the north end zone, he ran the ball from 40 yards out, jogged across the field, and carried the ball straight into the tunnel. Game over, with Mike Brown scoring two defensive touchdowns in two weeks to put the Bears firmly on top of the NFC Central and his name onto the list of legendary Bears players.
Hope you enjoyed this look back at another amazing Bears game. I'd like to dedicate this post to Jerry Angelo, who should take note just how important a great safety can be to your football team! See you here next week for what will probably be the last From the Archives for this offseason, as I was planning on using this slot to look at more recent game tape to consider how the Bears will match up to their opponent for the week. Until next Wednesday, go Bears!